Baked Goods

Simply Perfect and Healthier Cheesecake

simply perfect cheesecake with fruitWe are counting the days until Shavuos (lit: weeks).

Yes.  Shavuos is the holiday that we literally count the days toward its arrival. We count 49 days (seven weeks) from Pesach (Passover) to Shavuos, blessing the sefira (counting) every evening from the second night of Pesach until Shavuos begins.

From a culinary perspective, many of us count the days until we can enjoy the delicious dairy foods that have become associated with Shavuos. We are commanded to eat dairy foods at our festive meals (Countdown to Shavuos: Floral Inspirations and Dairy Recipes) on Shavuos and cheesecake has become one of the iconic desserts associated with Shavuos.

Shavuos commemorates the receiving of the Torah by the Jewish nation. It also is the time that the wheat is harvested and the bikurim (first fruits) were brought to the Holy Temple in a lavish ceremony (Bekurim: First Fruits from Hollister).  So, this year’s cheesecake is decorated with fruits, so symbolic of the bikurim ceremony.

I have kept the preparation simple and have incorporated greek yogurt and light cream cheese into the recipe to make for a healthier cheescake.   The flavor and texture is still impeccably delicious.

Just like last year’s mini cheesecake recipe, this recipe does not require a springform pan or a water bath for baking.  It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature just before preparation.   Preparation takes a few minutes and the baking is simple. It can be prepared as one round or rectangular cheesecake or in 12-16 mini ramekins.

simply perfect individual cheescake

SUPPLIES

spatula

food processor

mixer

INGREDIENTS

2 pound light or regular cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
8 ounce container of plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs

2 cups cookies or graham crackers, crushed

4 tablespoons butter

cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature before baking to prevent cracking, although I have made this recipe effectively with ingredients right out of the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Prepare cake pan or ramekins by generously spraying with cooking spray and/ or lining with parchment paper .

In food processor fitted with an S-blade, crush cookies and add butter, pulsing until mixture is fully incorporated.  You can also place cookies in a zipper bag and crush using a mallet or rolling pin, adding butter to the bag and kneading gently.  Gently press cookie-butter mixture into pan or ramekins.

Beat cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a food processor or with a mixer, just until smooth and creamy.  You can also use a whisk to incorporate and beat all these ingredients.  You will have to scrape sides of bowl to incorporate everything well until combined, smooth and creamy.

Pour mixture into pans or ramekins, filling 2/3 of the way to the top.  I find it easiest to pour the mixture from a glass measuring cup with a spout..

Bake mini ramekins for 15 minutes, 3-4″ ramekins for about 18-20 minutes and larger pan for 30 minutes.  Turn oven off and leave in oven to another hour.

Remove from the oven and cool completely.  Chill the ramekin cheesecakes for at least 2 hours and the larger cheesecake for at least 4 hours.  Gently remove cheesecake(s) from pan(s).

Garnish with fruit, berries, edible leaves and flowers. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving.

 

Same-Day Ciabatta is in the Bag

For those weeks when you remember to start the ciabatta the night before, my no-knead ciabatta recipe is perfect.  It requires no kneading, very little effort in preparation and produces a delicious ciabatta bread with a crusty exterior and large air pocket holes on the inside.  The only downside to this recipe is that it requires slow overnight rising of at least 12 hours.

Every once in a while, I intend to start the ciabatta the night before and life just gets in the way.   This past week was one of those weeks.

I woke up Friday morning and still wanted to prepare ciabatta, but just didn’t have enough time for the slow-rise method.

So, I had to adapt another recipe that would be ready in a lot less time.

Oh, and, while I was experimenting, I decided to prepare it in a zipper bag to eliminate most of the mess.

It worked out perfectly.

This original The Crepes of Wrath recipe was sent to me by Kaitlyn last year.  I simplified the preparation and adapted it to my measurement and temperature preferences.  Best of all, I adapted the recipe to be prepared in a zipper bag.

And, yes, without the overnight rise it still produces the enviable crust, so chewy inside with those oh, so wonderful air pockets.

Here it is.

ciabatta in the oven.jpg

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Simply Perfect Sufganiot in a Zipper Bag

I like to stay close to the latest trends in cooking and design.  One trendy and helpful technique in preparing dough is to use a zipper bag for preparing and kneading the dough.  It is a great idea for most dough and really reduces the cleanup.  Best of all, since the zipper bag can be discarded after use, this simple dough technique virtually eliminates those nasty dough-covered utensils and sponges that are so difficult to clean.

The ziploc bag eliminates the dusty mess of flour and allows all the dough crumbles to remain in the disposable ziploc bags.  Since the sufganiot in this recipe are amorphous and just dropped into oil, the ziploc bag can even be used  to dispense the doughnuts right into the frying pan.

I have adapted my favorite sufganiot recipe to use the ziploc bag.  I have tried it and it is just perfect!

sufganiot-in-a-bag-in-oil

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry active yeast

1 cup flour

1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water
Olive oil, for frying

Powdered sugar (optional)

large zipper bag (1-2 gallon)

 

DIRECTIONS

In a ziploc bag, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.  To do this easily, I fold top of zipper bag over a small pan so that bottom of zipper bag is at bottom of pan and top of bag is folded over sides of the pan.    This ensures that the liquid contents do not spill over.

sufganiot zipper bag in pan.jpg

Wait until yeast mixture becomes bubbly or foamy.  If the yeast mixture does not bubble and foam, the yeast is not active and you will have to redo this step, making sure that the water used is warm but not too hot to touch.

 

Carefully add salt and flour to the yeast mixture, kneading the bag until all the flour has been incorporated, for several minutes.   The dough should resemble a thick, sticky cake batter.

sufganiot-in-a-bag-yeast-dough-before-rising-2

 

Spray your hands with oil spray or rub oil on your hands.  With your oiled hands, carefully rub the oil all over the dough. making sure to coat all sides of the dough.  Rub or spray oil on the entire inside of the zipper bag, too.

Allow dough to rise for 3-4 hours in the bag.  Open zipper and gently let the excess air out of the bag.  Gently push down the dough by pressing on the outside of the bag.

In a pot or sauce pan with a large opening, over medium heat, heat 1-2 inches of olive oil until sizzling.

Cut a corner into the side of the zipper bag to allow dispensing of the dough directly from the zipper bag corner.

sufganiot-in-a-bag-after-risen

Squeeze donuts into the oil by pushing dough into corner of bag and squeezing out small pieces of odd-shaped dough out of the zipper bag.  You may have to coax and pull donuts out of the bag into the oil using oiled hands.

Repeat until you have filled the oil with donuts without crowding, as the sufganiot will puff up during the ferrying process.

 

sufganiot-in-a-bag-in-oil

 

Turn them over once the bottom is golden brown.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove each doughnut from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

Sprinkle powdered sugar over the doughnuts and enjoy!

Happy Chanukah!

..In the Honey: Rosh Hoshana Honeycomb Cupcakes

 

beehive-cupcake

Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) is coming and our friend (and Davida’s superMom), Staci Segal, is sponsoring a pre-Rosh Hashana bake sale to benefit benefit Ohr Meir U’Bracha, The Terror Victims Support Center of Israel.

Last year, Davida baked delicious muffins for this bake sale.  This year Davida and Staci’s daughter, Chava, are  studying in Israel, so I offered to bake and send over some cupcakes for this important event.  Although Davida and Chava are the true masters in my kitchen, I felt that I needed to prove that I still had some kitchen prowess.

I decided to bake two sets of cupcakes to represent the important and symbolic tradition of dipping an apple in honey on Rosh Hashana.  The first set of cupcakes were Dip the Apple… Rosh Hashana Cupcakes.

 

Now, all we needed were the honey cupcakes.  For these, I decided to prepare cupcakes shaped like beehives, with edible chocolate honeycombs and adorable jelly bean bees.

We dip an apple into honey at our festive evening meals on Rosh Hashana to symbolize our hope and prayer for a “sweet” New Year.   Honey is one of the symbols for the Land of Israel as the Torah describes Israel as a land “flowing with milk and honey.”  It symbolizes the connection between G-d, the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel.

The honey referred to in the Torah is date honey.  Today,  date honey is sold in Israel, but most of the honey found is bee honey.  These cupcakes were shaped liked beehives to represent this sweet symbol.

 

These cupcakes are available for sale among other delicious desserts at the Segal Home this Sunday, September 25th, 2016 from 2-8 PM.  Their address is 475 FDR Drive #301 on the Lower East Side. For more information, please contact Staci at 917-295-7295 or stacisegal@aol.com

 

SUPPLIES

Cupcakes

Melting wafers (for honeycomb pieces)

Parchment or wax paper

Clean bubble wrap

White frosting

Chocolate frosting

Mini cup cones

Black and yellow jelly beans

Slivered almonds

 

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Bake your favorite cupcakes.

Melt chocolate wafers or chips.  I use the defrost feature on the microwave.  I spread the chocolate out on a microwave-safe dinner plate and place it on defrost for 6-8 minutes.

Spread the chocolate out on a piece of parchment or wax paper, keeping the chocolate thin but not translucent.    Press clean bubble wrap with bubble side down onto melted chocolate.

beehive-chocolate-with-bubble-wrap

Keep bubble wrap until chocolate has hardened and carefully peel off.  Break the chocolate into chards that resemble pieces of honeycombs.

beehive-shards

 

Place a mini cup cone upside down in the center of each cupcake, pressing down until it is set into place.

Fill a ziploc or piping bag with white or yellow frosting.  To do this neatly, place a bag in a tall glass and fold the top of the bag over the edge of the glass like a collar.  Using a spatula, fill the bag.  Cut corner of bag with an opening big enough to pipe thick frosting.  Squeeze frosting to corner carefully.

beehive-cupcakes-in-progress

Pipe frosting on each cupcake, surrounding upside down cone and piping to top of cone.

Place a chocolate honeycomb chard on the side of each cupcake.  Place one or two jellybeans on each cupcake.   Place slivered almonds on either side of each jellybean.

Fill two small ziploc or piping bags with chocolate and white frosting.  To do this neatly, place the bag in a tall glass and fold the top of the bag over the edge of the glass like a collar and fill with frosting.  Cut corner of bag with a tiny opening to pipe thin stripes on the jellybean bees.   Carefully squeeze frosting to corner.

beehive-cupcakes-decorating-ingredients-and-bags

Pipe stripes of white frosting on black jellybeans.  Pipe stripes of chocolate frosting on yellow jellybeans.

beehive-cupcakes-in-carrier

 

 

Wishing you all a Kesiva Ve’Chasma Tova (a positive inscription and seal for the upcoming year).

Dip the Apple… Rosh Hashana Cupcakes

Rosh Hashana is coming and our friend (and Davida’s superMom), Staci Segal, is sponsoring a pre-Rosh Hashana bake sale to benefit benefit Ohr Meir U’Bracha, The Terror Victims Support Center of Israel.

Last year, Davida baked glazed carrot muffins for this bake sale.  This year Davida and Staci’s daughter, Chava, are spending the year studying in Israel, so I offered to bake and send over some cupcakes for this important event.  I wanted to make sure that the Segal bake sale would have adequate Respler representation.

I sat down to think about what I could bake that would be unique and delicious.  It needed to be something easy to transport,  interesting and something appropriate for Rosh Hashanah.

The first thing that came to mind was an apple dessert.  The apple is such a strong symbol of Rosh Hashana.

During Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), we eat apples dipped in honey as a symbol for a sweet new year.   It is interesting that an apple is chosen as the fruit to dip.

One reason is that in King Solomon’s Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), the nation of Israel is compared to an apple.  “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved (Israel) amongst the maidens (nations) of the world.”  Furthernore, an apple is symbolic of the love between the nation of Israel and G-d as we read in Shir Hashirim , “Beneath the apple tree I aroused you.”

We are taught that an apple tree sprouts the tiny core of each apple before the leaves surround and protect the young fruit.  In the same way, the young Jewish nation accepted the Torah before understanding the myriad of details within.  The famous acceptance of our nation was verbalized as “we will do and we will understand”.  We committed to the holy observance of Torah commandments even before we understood the full extent of what this commitment entailed.  Therefore, the apple has become a symbol and remembrance of the commitment to our faith and acceptance of Torah at Mount Sinai.  We recall this on Rosh Hashana when our mission is to proclaim G-d as our King.

I decided to prepare cupcakes designed to look like red apples.  I baked vanilla cupcakes for this recipe.  Perhaps, next time, I will prepare honey cupcakes to fully represent the Rosh Hashana tradition of “dipping the apple in the honey”.

apple-cupcakes-in-carrier

These cupcakes are available for sale among other delicious desserts at the Segal Home this Sunday, September 25th, 2016 from 2-8 PM.  Their address is 475 FDR Drive #301 on the Lower East Side. For more information, please contact Staci at 917-295-7295 or stacisegal@aol.com

apple-cupcakes

SUPPLIES

Cupcakes

White frosting

Red sanding sugar or sugar and red food coloring

Brown licorice, brown taffy or small pretzel nub

Green taffy or gum

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Bake your favorite cupcakes.

Cut pieces of brown licorice, taffy or pretzels to resemble stems.

spple-cupcake-embellishments

Flatten green gum or taffy and use knife to cut out leaf shapes.  Use blunt knife to form leaf veins.

apple-cupcakes-leaves

To make red sanding sugar, combine 1 cup of sugar with red food coloring, adding food coloring until the desired depth of color is reached.  I pulsed this in my food processor.  Alternatively, you can combine the sugar and color in a ziploc bag or in your mixer.

apple-cupcakes-sanding-sugar-ingredients

apple-cupcakes-sanding-sugar

 

Frost cupcakes generously with a small knife or spatula, heaping frosting to form a mounded top for each cupcake.

Using spoon, sprinkle sanding sugar on top of each cupcake until well coated.  Gently shake off excess sanding sugar.

apple-cupcakes-in-sugar

Insert brown stem and green leaf.

apple-cupcake

apple cupcakes in carrier.jpg

Wishing you all a Kesiva Ve’Chasma Tova (a positive inscription and seal for the upcoming year).

 

 

Delicious Banana Muffins: Approved by Leah

As a Shabbos gift, one of my friends recently sent over some delicious banana muffins.

banana muffins

They were so banana-ey, moist and delicious, that my daughter, Leah, asked me to get the recipe. Leah rarely eats baked goods, so I knew that these muffins were special. I vividly remember that as a two-year old toddler, Leah took a swipe of the frosting on her birthday cake and then exclaimed, “Now may I have a clementine?”

At Leah’s urging, I asked my friend, Michal, for the recipe and she was more than willing to share it.  It is simple and filled with banana deliciousness.

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Simple and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

For Shabbos and Yom Tov, I always like to have some delicious and beautiful baked goods sitting under the dome of my pastry platters on my kitchen counter. Since I am still on the low-carb diet, I must discipline myself to enjoy my tea without the sweets.

Davida is our resident baker.  She has an extensive repertoire of cookie recipes that never fails to impress us.  She baked a delicious batch of fat chocolate chunk cookies tonight that made our mouths water.  Don and I had to enjoy them with our eyes (although I sometimes wonder if Don cheats and enjoys them by mouth when no one is looking).

chewy chocolate chunk cookies (more…)

Simple Mini Cheesecakes with Gorgeous Garnishes

Shavuos is on its way!  Cheesecake is one of the staples of the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, since we are commanded to eat dairy foods at our festive meals (Countdown to Shavuos: Floral Inspirations and Dairy Recipes) on Shavuos.

This year, Don and I are still on a low-carb diet.    We didn’t want to forego cheesecake, but I wanted to make sure to use a minimum of carbs in my cheesecake preparation.  I decided to create portion-size cheesecakes to keep the portion size well-controlled.  This will allow us to enjoy a taste of heaven without feeling deprived, but keeping our diet “cheating” to a minimum.

Best of all, I skipped the carb-heavy crust and created some beautiful and tasty garnishes to embellish these simple and delicious mini cheesecakes.  They are light, delicious, fresh-tasting, gluten-free and simply divine.

This recipe does not require a springform pan or a water bath for baking.  It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature just before preparation.  Preparation takes a few minutes and the baking takes less than 20 minutes.  It is best made in disposable or porcelain ramekins.  It makes 6 medium size or 12 mini ramekins.

 

Supplies

3-4 inch ramekins Set of 6 three ounce ramekins or aluminum disposable mini ramekins 39mm

 

Ingredients

1 pound cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

mini cheese cakemini cheese cake with strawberry and chocolate garnishmini cheese cake with chocolate barkmini cheese cake with chocolate bark only

Directions

It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature before baking to prevent cracking, although I have made this recipe effectively with ingredients right out of the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Spray ramekins with cooking spray.

Beat  cream cheese with eggs with a whisk, in a food processor or with a mixer, just until smooth and creamy.  Add rest of ingredients, beating and incorporating well.  You may have to scrape sides of bowl to incorporate everything well until combined, smooth and creamy.

Pour mixture into ramekins, filling 2/3 of the way to the top.  I find it easiest to pour the mixture from a glass measuring cup with a spout..

Bake mini ramekins for 15 minutes, 3-4″ ramekins for about 18-20 minutes.  Cheesecake will rise slightly.  Centers should be set, although the cheese cake will appear to be slightly jiggly.

Remove from the oven and  cool completely.  Chill the cheesecakes in the ramekins for at least 2 hours or overnight.

The cheese cakes can be served directly  in the ramekins or can be removed from the ramekins and served upside side.  If removing from the ramekins, carefully turn over on a serving plate.  Allow cheese cake to rest for a few minutes before garnishing.

Garnish with fruit, berries, edible leaves and flowers, chocolate bark (Chards of Colorful Chocolate Bark: Whimsical and Delicious)or whole or crumbled cookies.

 

Variations

This recipe can be made as a small single cheesecake.  Generously grease a round baking pan.  Prepare ingredients as above and pour ingredients into greased round pan.  Increase baking time to 30 minutes or until center is set.  Garnish as above.

 

Prepare a crust by crumbling 1 cup of  your favorite cookies with 3 tablespoons of melted butter or coconut oil.  Press into the bottom of each ramekin and bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool before pouring cheesecake batter over the crust.  Continue to bake as above.  You may have to gently coax cheesecake out of ramekin or pan using a smooth knife to unseat the edges of the crust.

mini cheese cake with crust and edible pansies

Deliciously Simple Onion and Garlic Rolls

These onion and  garlic rolls are simple to prepare and delicious.  When I was first married, I prepared these onion/garlic rolls regularly.  Since the total rising time is less than two hours, I found that I was able to start these after work on Friday and still have them ready for Shabbos.

onion garlic rolls up front

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Pretzel Challah: Crusty and Salted

pretzel challah rolls

One challah recipe would never suffice in a family with many types of palates and personalities.   This pretzel challah recipe is unique, delicious and oh, so reminiscent of hot pretzels that you may just want to serve it with mustard.

Our youngest daughter, Davida, decided to try a new pretzel challah recipe. We were all skeptical, but it turned out to be delicious. This challah has a crusty, salty outside and a deliciously doughy inside. It is best enjoyed hot within 24 hours of baking. Unlike most challah recipes, it is not suitable for freezing.

She found the basic recipe in the Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings cookbook We made some minor changes and simplifications.

 

INGREDIENTS FOR EACH KITCHEN AID BOWL
(I use two bowls for a total of  five pounds of flour)

1 pkg  or 2 tablespoons yeast
2 1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup oil
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 pounds (6 cups) of bread or high-gluten flour

8 cups room-temperature water
2/3 cup baking soda
kosher salt or everything mix (see notes)
optional egg wash (a bit of egg mixed with a few drops of warm water)
sesame and  poppy seeds (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS (more…)

Simple and Delicious Challah to Wow your Shabbos Guests

I recently hosted a few boys for a friend’s son’s  Bar Mitzvah.  As a token of appreciation for hosting these teenage boys, my friend sent over some delicious baked goods and the most delicious challah ever. This challah was everything that one can imagine a challah to be.  It was beautiful.  It was moist.  It was just perfect.
zahtz challah
I asked her for the recipe and she gave it to me.  It may just become my new simply the best challah recipe!

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Kaitlyn’s Berry “Fresh” Muffins

Last week, Kaitlyn sent two-year old Avigail to playgroup with a muffin in her lunch bag. The muffin looked and smelled so delicious that Avigail’s teacher asked Kaitlyn for the recipe.

After school that afternoon, Kaitlyn and Avigail made another batch of muffins, wrapped a couple of them for the teacher along with the recipe.  Avigail arrived to playgroup the next morning and before anything else, she announced to her teacher.  “We made these fresh for you!”

Well, here is Avigail and Kaitlyn’s “fresh” recipe: (more…)